The world of piano can be confusing. There are many options and not nearly enough time to research every one.
I get a lot of questions about the best equipment for beginner pianists. Throughout the years of teaching piano, I’ve done a lot of research and experimented with different tools.
Here are the must-have tools for beginner pianists:
- A Piano
- Piano Finger Exercise Book
- Piano Method Book
- A Practice Buddy
- A Dedicated Piano Teacher
I discuss each item below.
How to Choose an Electric Piano
You’ll need something to practice on. A real, acoustic, piano is best, but as a beginner experimenting with the world of piano, an electric piano is sufficient to start with. Most kids start on electric pianos and move on to an acoustic later.
As well, electric pianos are portable–you’ll get consistent sound anywhere in the world, which performers bank on–and suitable if you have a small space, or if you play in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep.
Though, if you’re prepared to drop around $7k on a digital piano, consider purchasing an acoustic piano instead.
To play Classical music, you should move onto an acoustic piano eventually. Classical music was composed for the acoustic piano, and you’ll only get the full range of sound with an acoustic.
If budget is a large consideration factor, purchase an electric keyboard and stick with it for six months. Are you still passionate about piano in six months? If so, consider buying an acoustic.
Start with a keyboard that has 88 keys and make sure its keys are weighted. Weighted keys means there is resistance when you press down on the keys to mimic the hammers on an acoustic piano, so your fingers can develop the strength and agility needed to play difficult music over time. As well, weighted keyboards help you develop a sense of touch as you get used to the pressure needed to get a certain volume.
You can choose how many bells and whistles you want on it; for example, if you plan on recording music digitally, consider its inputs/outputs, connectivity to a computer.
Light-up keys and any feature where you can “learn” to play piano without reading sheet music, is unnecessary. You need to learn to read sheet music, and light-up keys is like a crutch.
Aim for maximum polyphony of 64 to 128. Maximum polyphony is the number of notes the keyboard can produce at once. The more, the better.
Pay attention to touch and quality of sound. The manufacturer should describe the kind of sound that the piano produces; if you get a chance to play around with it, compare the lowest bass notes and the highest notes. Are the high notes tinny? You don’t want tinny.
Choose between a portable (electric) keyboard and digital piano. Portable keyboards take up less space than digital pianos.
Here’s a typical digital piano (it tries to mimic an acoustic as much as possible):
And a typical electric keyboard (you can get a stand for it as well):
I’d generally recommend an electric keyboard over a digital piano, because, in a digital piano, you only get a small increase in sound quality for the huge decrease in portability, so you might as well spend the premium on a really good electric keyboard.
These electric keyboards are worth looking into:
If you’re getting a digital piano, make sure it has at least one pedal (the damper pedal). This is essential for some types of music, for example, contemporary or gospel music.
These digital pianos are worth looking into:
What Piano Finger Exercises To Do
There is no excuse to not spend 5 minutes warming up when you’ll reap the benefits of stronger and faster fingers soon enough. I recommend all my students to train their fingers.
A Dozen a Day is a good series to look into, for beginner piano finger exercises.
Which Piano Method Book To Use
Learn to read notes! Recognize keys! All that jazz.
This is where you will start lessons. Your teacher may also have other recommendations; method books are largely dependent on teaching style and the type of music you hope to play in the future.
This is not to say you can’t play contemporary music or gospel music on the side, but you will need to learn proper technique and foundational knowledge, first.
What a Practice Partner Does For You
It’s so easy to lose motivation when starting out. Have a partner who will keep you on track, kind of like a gym buddy. I’ve written about practice partners here.
Why You Need a Piano Teacher
Yes, you can learn piano online from youtube videos, but no, you won’t be a great musician, and no, it won’t be fast.
Spend three months with a good piano teacher, and you’ll learn the basics and get your posture issues sorted out. Every beginner pianist has bad posture. Even if you think you’re sitting right and using your wrists (99% of beginners do not use their wrists properly). These issues will bite you in the butt later with possible muscle damage and pain.
If you can take continual piano lessons, even better. Skype lessons have become really popular lately, because you don’t even have to leave your house to learn from some of the best teachers.
There you have it! The beginner piano starter kit. Whether you’re looking to learn piano or doing research for someone else, keep these in mind and you’ll be golden.